I got out of the car and walked inside. My first impression can be summed up in one word: WHOA.
I was twelve years old, and it was my first Yu-Gi-Oh tournament ever: a Regional about half an hour away from my house. Inside were hundreds of players trading, buying cards, selling cards, dueling, or preparing their decklists for the tournament.
My experience in the game was extremely limited: I’d never played against anyone outside of my own group of friends at our elementary school. I’d never heard of a local tournament store, let alone been to one. But I’d heard about this tournament from a friend who was way better than I was, and decided to go check it out.
My best friend, my dad and I looked around the venue. We had no idea what to expect, or how the tournament worked, or even that there was a list that dictated which cards were legal for play.
Needless to say, the outcome of our first tournament was disastrous. My friend and I were both given game losses when we found out the hard way that Raigeki was forbidden. Similar things happened when we tried to play Graceful Charity, Delinquent Duo, and The Forceful Sentry. After a while though, our decks were tournament legal, even if they were perhaps a dozen cards smaller.
Both of us went 0-8. My Elemental Hero deck couldn’t do anything against the highly skilled players I faced that day and my friend’s Spellcaster deck just couldn’t get a win either.
You would think that getting annihilated like that would make a young duelist want to quit the game forever, but what happened was the exact opposite. Seeing those older duelists throw together amazing combos like it was nothing provided inspiration for us to become as good as they were. From that moment on, we were determined to become tournament players.
It was a few weeks before we went to a tournament again. We reworked our decks, played hundreds of duels in testing, and we felt we were ready to try again. This time, though, we decided to try something a little smaller.
We searched the web and found a card store that was pretty close. It ran weekly tournaments on Saturday. The store was small, and held only about 30 people. Luckily, that day, there were only about 15 people playing. The way we saw it, this really helped our chances of winning.
All of our testing did not pay off. Regardless of who our opponent was, they would beat us handily without even really trying. I will admit this day was a discouraging one. After that tournament, we both decided to give up playing on the tournament circuit. We just weren’t good enough.
For a few years, we played casually on and off with our friends. But one day when I was at the store, I saw a booster pack of Crimson Crisis, and the sleeping creature within me awoke. It was time to try again. I bought the pack, and inside pulled a Blackwing-Sirocco the Dawn. It was just a common, but I knew that Blackwings were the deck for me. I showed the new cards to my friend, and spurred by excitement, we decided to get back into the game.
The next month or so, we committed more money than we ever had committed to Yu-Gi-Oh before and purchased 3 booster boxes: one box of Crimson Crisis, and two of Raging Battle.
After all the packs had been opened, I had everything I needed for my new Blackwing deck, Synchros and all. In our Crimson Crisis box, we pulled 3 Arcanite Magicians, which my friend took for his deck. With my new deck and his newly revamped deck, we tried another local tournament.
This time, we decided not to go to the store we had lost at before, but instead to try another store. This store was so small that the tournament could not even be held in the store, but instead was held in the seating area of a neighboring pizza place.
Only 9 people were there, so it was guaranteed that at least one of us would make the Top 8. As it turned out, we both did, with (poor, but still our best ever) 1-3 finishes. I sat down across from my playoff opponent.
He was a few years older than me, maybe 17 or 18 years old at the time. His SJC Playmat, original Sheep Tokens, and 6 binders full of valuable cards told me that this guy was the real deal.
His play was fast and he beat me easily. But what was really different about him from any other opponent I’d ever had was that, not only was he a pleasant opponent, but he would point out my misplays. Then, he would explain what he would have done if he was in my situation or how I could have fixed that play or made it better.
I will always remember the final play. I was down to 50 Life Points from using Solemn Judgment on his Mystical Space Typhoon when I had an Icarus Attack set. He had an Armageddon Knight on the field, and one card facedown. He had 500 Life Points. I drew Blackwing-Blizzard the Far North and summoned it, bringing back a Bora from my Graveyard. I Synchro Summoned Brionac, Dragon of the Ice Barrier, immediately discarded a card for his effect, trying to bounce his trap. To my dismay, he flipped up a Bottomless Trap Hole. I lost my Brionac, and the next turn Armageddon Knight attacked for the win. After the duel, he was curious what I had face down and he asked me. When I told him what I had, he couldn’t believe why I had chosen to go for Brionac instead of Armed Wing. He had had no cards in his hand at the time, and I had a Vayu in the Graveyard. If he had tried to Bottomless my Armed Wing, I could have flipped Icarus, destroyed his field, and then used Vayu to bring out an Armor Master, attack, and win. I never would have thought of that on my own back then, but the way he explained it was just as if he were trying to explain that 5 comes after 4.
To this day, I cannot remember what his name was. But if I did, I would really want him to read this. That small act of kindness has made such a difference. And I’m not even talking about in Yu-Gi-Oh.
Here you have an older kid who is known for being very good taking the time to help a younger player (that he doesn’t even know) become a better duelist. To me, that’s just awesome. I don’t even know this guy, but since then I have tried to follow his example in all things, whether it’s through holding the door for that freshman who gets picked on, or helping the worst shooter on the team work on his jump shot, it all makes a big difference, no matter how small the act may seem.
It’s people like him that make this game what it is. Sure, dueling, collecting, and trading are all great fun. But the things that really make the game worth it for me are the people you meet through Yu-Gi-Oh, and what you can learn from them.